Finance, farms, and the Fed's early years
We provide causal evidence that discount rate changes by the Federal Reserve affected economic output in the 1920s. Our identification strategy exploits county-level variation in access to the Fed's discount window, and we implement this strategy with hand-collected data on banking and agriculture in Illinois in the early 20th century. The mechanism for the Fed's effect on agriculture was a bank credit channel, operating independently of any deflationary effect on money supply. Our findings suggest that the Fed deliberately managed transitory shocks during 1920-1921, mitigating debt burdens with which farms would struggle in the years leading to the Great Depression.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.